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Libya: The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    For a reader unfamiliar with the history of Libya, Muammar Qaddafi might be mistaken for a character in fiction. His eccentric leadership as the nation's "Brother Leader," his repressive regime, sponsorship of terrorist violence, unique vision of the state, and relentless hold on power all seem implausibly extreme. This riveting book documents the extraordinary reality of Qaddafi's rise and 42-year reign. It also explores the tenacious popular uprising that finally defeated him and the possibilities for Libya as the future unfolds.

    Alison Pargeter, an author with deep understanding of Libya's history and people, explains what led up to Qaddafi's bloodless coup in 1969 and how he proceeded to translate his highly personalized vision into political, economic, and social policy. She discusses his tight-knit networks, the crises he overcame-including sanctions after the Lockerbie bombing in 1988-as well as his astounding maneuverings in the early 2000s to restore tattered relations with the West. Pargeter provides a thoroughly fascinating analysis of the 2011 revolt and uncovers the full details of Qaddafi's downfall. She concludes by introducing the new power brokers in post-Qaddafi Libya as well as the variety of knotty challenges that now confront them.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18489-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    In February 2011, Libya’s little-known eastern capital of Benghazi erupted in a popular uprising. Within a matter of days, the whole of the eastern region had fallen into rebel hands. After almost six months of intense fighting and an international military campaign led by NATO, Tripoli, the capital, also fell. By October, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the mercurial leader who had been at the helm of the country for over four decades was found hiding in a stinking sewage pipe, having narrowly escaped a NATO strike on his convoy. The dazed and dishevelled dictator was dragged from his hiding place and...

  8. CHAPTER 1 Land of the Conquered
    (pp. 10-34)

    Writing in 1934, Italian colonial civil servant Angelo Piccioli described his first sighting of Tripoli as he approached by steam boat across the Mediterranean:

    Today as we came to this white town crowned with palms and girdled with serenity, as we gazed at Tripoli rising from the sea among the light mists of morning, our hearts were filled with a strange joy, confident and thoughtful … Bright, solemn and silent stood the ancient uncouth city; time here seems to have stopped, and the city keeps intact its Islamic, medieval soul. It looked as though it were suspended in an airy...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Ripe for Revolution
    (pp. 35-60)

    On 24 December 1951, the newly installed King Idris Al-Sanussi, accompanied by the country’s first prime minister, Mahmoud Muntasir, proudly proclaimed Libya’s independence from the balcony of the Al-Manara Palace in Benghazi. Draped over the balcony was the country’s new flag, its colours and symbols representing the coming together of the three regions as a single unit for the first time.¹ It was a moving experience for the crowds who thronged below and who lined the rooftops of the buildings opposite, straining to catch a glimpse of their new monarch. One attendee at the palace celebrations recounted: ‘As the tears...

  10. CHAPTER 3 The Rise of the Jamahiriyah
    (pp. 61-91)

    As dawn broke on the morning of 1 September, Libyans had no idea who had toppled their king, yet alone what they stood for. However, as the identities of the twelve-strong Revolutionary Command Council (RCC)¹ emerged four months after the coup, it became clear that the country’s new leaders were of a very different breed from the established political elite. In stark contrast to those who had prospered under the king, most of the RCC, as well as the wider circle of Free Unionist Officers, came from minor tribes and were either from lower middle-class stock or from poor families....

  11. CHAPTER 4 Jamahiriyah in Practice: A Revolutionary Decade
    (pp. 92-117)

    Having presented his new gospel to the world, the Colonel was ready to put his ideas into practice. On 2 March 1977, in the town of Sebha, where he had staged his first rebellions against the king, Libya’s young leader announced the ‘Declaration of the Establishment of the Authority of the People’. This announcement marked the birth of the Jamahiriyah, or ‘State of the Masses’, and formalized the cumbersome political system that Qaddafi had laid out in the first part of hisGreen Book. This was to be ‘people power’ in action: every Libyan was to participate in governing through...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Foreign Adventurism
    (pp. 118-144)

    Libya was always going to be too small for Qaddafi; he believed himself a revolutionary of international proportions, and Qaddafism was not about to be confined to the domestic sphere. With a self-belief that knew no bounds, the prophet of the desert immediately set about projecting his revolution beyond Libya’s borders. The world became the Colonel’s oyster, as he employed the immense oil wealth at his disposal in the quest to put himself and his revolution on the map.

    While some of this foreign adventurism was about seeking domestic legitimacy – winning over the masses with bold and rabble-rousing anti-imperialist...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Jamahiriyah in Crisis
    (pp. 145-175)

    Two months after the US raid of 1986, an already unnerved Qaddafi had another startling experience. He and Jalloud travelled to the tiny village of Harawa, in the scrubby deserts near the Colonel’s birthplace of Sirte. The two revolutionaries sat with the sheikhs of the powerful Awlad Suleiman tribal confederation. After sharing a convivial lunch, the sheikhs brought a five-year-old girl to the Colonel. Plucking up all her courage, the girl stepped forward to tell the Brother Leader: ‘Uncle Muammar … for the last five years I haven’t eaten a single apple.’¹ More ominously, one of the sheikhs then warned:...

  14. CHAPTER 7 The Chimera of Reform
    (pp. 176-212)

    Qaddafi was faced with a dilemma. Libya was deep in crisis and the Colonel desperately needed a way out. Everywhere he looked, the pressures were building and he feared the country might slip out of his hands. His cherished Jamahiriyah was on shakier ground than ever before. If his regime was going to live, he was going to have to do something drastic. The exhausted Colonel knew that the key to extricating himself from this mess was to hand over the Lockerbie suspects, thereby securing the lifting of the international embargo that was strangling the country and grinding down the...

  15. CHAPTER 8 A New Dawn
    (pp. 213-247)

    At 3.30p.m. on 15 February 2011, seven cars from the general security directorate drew up outside the modest home of Fathi Terbil, a young and unassuming lawyer from Benghazi. Some twenty security personnel entered the building and set about ransacking the place, destroying Terbil’s possessions and assaulting his mother. They then arrested the young lawyer and carted him off to the general security directorate in Benghazi. Little did Terbil know it, but his arrest was to be the spark that ignited Libya’s revolution.

    The softly spoken Terbil was a well-known face in Libya’s second city. He had been representing the...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 248-257)

    One year on from the start of the revolution, Libya was still writhing in crisis. Qaddafi may have gone, but things were not panning out quite the way that those who had risked their lives for change had dreamed of. The country was up against a barrage of challenges, and the jubilation that had accompanied the Colonel’s demise was fast being replaced by a profound sense of unease at the direction in which this ‘gigantic dust bowl of sand’ was heading. The ‘Pharaoh’ may have been slain, but his death had unleashed a thousand lesser pharaohs, all jostling for power...

  17. Endnotes
    (pp. 258-276)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-280)
  19. Index
    (pp. 281-290)